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I am reading from the book of Matthew at chapter 25:31 in the NIV bible and the heading is called "The Sheep and the Goats" and reads

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, He will sit on his throne in Heavenly glory

I notice that in the first part of the scripture it is written "his glory" and i also notice that in the last part of the scripture it is written "Heavenly glory."

I would have thought that Jesus would have left Heaven in Heavenly glory, but looking at the last part of the scripture,this does not seem to be.

What is the difference between the glory that Jesus has, and the Heavenly glory which he will have.How is this scripture meant to be understood?

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  • I believe Susan has rendered an accurate account of the differences in glory being translational, peculiar to the NIV. We obviously will not know the extent of the Heavenly glory, nor the Son of Man's glory until we see it for ourselves. The translators are presuming a difference which they have no way of knowing. The fact that they changed it in the 2011 is confirmation of this. Which is why I don't care for the NIV.........;>)
    – Tau
    Jul 7 '15 at 23:45
  • @Tau, Revelation 19:17 touches on the visible glory with these words, "And i saw an angel standing in the sun." The angel must be brighter than the sun if John saw the angel standing in the sun.That's my thought on the brightness of the glory.
    – Bagpipes
    Jul 8 '15 at 8:54
  • I don't think we truly know what "glory" is until we see it manifested in the realm of the Spirit. Nathanael saw "Heaven open and the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man(John 1:51)". How many have even had a glimpse of that? I think "glory" is much used, but least understood word-Thank you for bringing it to mind!
    – Tau
    Jul 8 '15 at 23:54
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Ὅταν δὲ ἔλθῃ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐν τῇ δόξῃ αὐτοῦ καὶ πάντες οἱ ἄγγελοι μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ, τότε καθίσει ἐπὶ θρόνου δόξης αὐτοῦ· (NA28)

But when the son of man comes in his glory (doxē autou) and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory (doxēs autou). (Susan's wooden rendition)

There is no distinction drawn here between two types of glory. It's exactly the same phrase.

The NIV 1984, quoted in the question, has translated them differently because the latter is a juxtaposition of two nouns – thronou (throne) and doxēs (glory) – and the second is in the genitive case (i.e. “throne of glory”). This can be construed as an attributive (a.k.a. Hebrew) genitive. In this construction, the second noun carries an adjectival idea and modifies the first. It is especially common with abstract nouns like doxa.

When an attributive genitive is understood (as most translations do here), sometimes we can get away with translating it into English as 'x of y', mimicking the Greek syntax. (See, e.g., Rom 6:6, commonly rendered 'body of sin', but also = 'sinful body'.)

Here, arguably we could get away with this (so KJV, RSV, NRSV, etc.), but the NIV translators evidently thought this wasn’t adequately fluent (or perhaps transparent) English. To smooth it out, the basic process is:

  1. Make the genitive into an explicit English attributive (i.e. adjective): throne of his gloryglorious throne (so ESV, NIV [2011],2 NET, NKJV, etc.), +/-

  2. Provide an interpretation of what the translators think “glorious” means in this context. Adjectives such as majestic (CEB), royal (CEV), and great (ICB) are used in other translations to modify “throne”.

The NIV 1984 (but not 2011) appears to have followed both of these steps to generate the adjective “Heavenly”. Oddly, though, they create an adverbial phrase and have doxēs doing “double duty” meaning both “Heavenly” and “glory”. I see no other translation that does this. Genitives can occasionally be adverbial, but juxtaposed with another noun like this it is not the most natural translation. Even if it were adverbial, there remains an extraneous word+concept here.

This seems to be an idiosyncrasy of the NIV 1984 that has, understandably, created the confusion expressed in the question.2 The NIV 2011 and other translations that use an English adjective have made a rational translation decision, but the more dynamic versions obscure the consistent use of doxa autou (his glory).


1. Oddly, “glorious throne” is used by NIV 1984 in Matt. 19:28, translating the same Greek phrase as 25:31. In the 2011 edition, both are rendered “glorious throne”.

2. I would love to be corrected if somebody can explain this!

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  • Your answer is very helpful.I must say,that it was not the answer i expected,but it certainly ends my confusion.Excellent answer!
    – Bagpipes
    Jul 8 '15 at 8:45
  • @Bagpipes To tell you the truth, it was not the answer I expected when I started either. ;-) Glad it was helpful, though. Please keep an open ear in case anybody has anything additional to contribute about NIV ’84’s reasoning; it’s still a bit of a mystery to me.
    – Susan
    Jul 8 '15 at 8:50

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